Elderwood in North Creek in peril; risk to 57 residents, 97 jobs

By Ben Westcott, Chronicle Staff Writer

The owners of the nursing home Elderwood at North Creek have submitted to the state a draft closure plan. The home’s administrators say it needs a $2.5 million grant from the state to stay open.

“We are not in closure,” Elderwood Administrator Heidi Schempp said at the April 16 Johnsburg Town Board meeting. “We are operating as normal and providing all the services and quality of care that we need to provide to our residents. But we are at risk for closing.”

Elderwood’s parent company is Post Acute Partners of New York City. There are 33 Elderwood facilities in New York, Rhode Island and Vermont. The Chronicle was unable to get a comment from Post Acute Partners’ CEO on the situation.

Both Johnsburg Town Supervisor Kevin Bean and 114th District State Assemblyman Matt Simpson told The Chronicle that they don’t know what the chances are that Elderwood will stay open.

“Right now it’s a decision that’s in the hands of the Department of Health as far as the grant application,” Assemblyman Simpson said.

A NYSDOH public information officer told The Chronicle, “The Department has received documentation from the facility, which is under review. The Department cannot comment on matters under review.”

Supervisor Bean told The Chronicle, “This is a big deal. Everybody is very nervous about what’s going to happen. Losing this nursing home would be a huge blow to Johnsburg and the surrounding area.”

“It’s going to affect Hamilton, Essex and Warren Counties,” he said, “because that’s where all of these residents come from. Am I concerned about the residents moving to Utica, Albany, Syracuse? Absolutely. Because most of the residents are local and so are their families.”

“For me, as important as that is, the bigger issue in my opinion, as the Supervisor, is we’re going to lose 97 jobs. And I don’t know if we will ever recover 97 jobs. That’s what scares the daylights out of me.”

Supervisor Bean says his impression from visiting the facility is, “It’s in good shape, it’s clean, the residents are well cared for, they’re happy.”

He notes Elderwood has gone from a two-star to a four-star rating by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. COVID “hit us really hard,” Ms. Schempp said at the meeting, explaining how Elderwood got into jeopardy.

She said they applied for a Vital Access Provider (VAP) state grant and submitted a multi-year transformation plan, but only received one year of funding.

During the second year of that plan, Ms. Schempp said ,“Our owners have just been sustaining us at a loss.”

She said Elderwood has since applied for another VAP grant “to get us to the bridge of sustainability. We know that we can be sustainable.”

Elderwood’s Director of Nursing Breann Parker said, “We did at one point with the VAP grant reach sustainability. Then COVID hit our building, and that changed the dynamics altogether. So we can prove historically that we’re able to manage without the VAP grant. It’s just this moment that we need it for this amount of time.”

Ms. Schempp said Elderwood is not currently accepting new admissions. “I think it would be irresponsible for us to do so with the unknown.”

She said she doesn’t know exactly where Elderwood’s 57 residents would end up if the facility were to close.

“There’s not 57 open beds in Warren County,” she said. “I can’t guarantee where anyone would go. We will make sure that it’s a safe transition and people are transported. We will help you with paperwork. We will do all the things that we would normally do when we’re discharging people. But I cannot guarantee where someone would go….We would attempt to discharge no more than a certain amount of people every day, and we would find places for those people to go. And then each day we would just continue to do those things until there were no more residents in the building.”

Ms. Schempp said Elderwood would not be closing for lack of demand. She said they had gotten up to 93% occupancy compared to the state average of 83%.

“The patients are out there. They do need us. Our community needs us.”

The nursing home has served the community for decades. It opened as the Adirondack Tri-County Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in 1974. It transitioned from public to private ownership in 2018, becoming Elderwood at North Creek.

45th District Senator Dan Stec said in a statement Elderwoodo “provides an essential service to Warren County and the surrounding area and must remain opened…this current issue is indicative of a larger crisis plaguing our state and rural communities in particular.

Due to poor Medicaid reimbursement rates, hospitals and nursing homes across New York have been forced to decrease services or permanently close.”

Assemblyman Simpson said, “Elderwood has provided vital care to our seniors for years. The closure of this facility would not only disrupt the lives of its residents and staff but also jeopardize the health and well being of our seniors.”

Mrs. Parker said Elderwood’s residents are “nervous about what’s going on right now. Their family members are scared about what’s going on right now.”

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